Places of worship to re-open for private prayer (June 2020)
Last updated: 29 June 2020
Update: As announced by the Prime Minister on 23 June, far wider opening of churches in England will be permitted from 4 July 2020. Official government guidance ‘COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of places of worship from 4 July’ was released on Monday 29 June. Read more on our website.
From 13 June 2020, it will be permissible for churches in England to re-open their buildings for private prayer (note: the original date given was 15 June, but this was subsequently brought forward to 13 June).
The government released guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic on 12 June 2020 (these apply to England only). See our page 'Preparing for when church buildings re-open' for links to further reflections and guidance on preparing for 'the new normal'.
The assessment of risk lies with the local management of the building, at whichever level that is undertaken, and the Government has not set a limit to how many individuals may be allowed in a church building at one time for the purpose of private prayer. Social distancing should be in place at all times. Those responsible for places of worship still have discretion over when they consider it safe to open for this limited activity.
While individuals or members of the same household may enter a church building to pray, all meetings for organised and led prayers are still not permitted. Weddings, baptisms, ordinations, services and other classes all remain prohibited in England. Essential voluntary activities in church buildings, such as blood donation and food banks, homeless services and registered early years and childcare provision continue to be permitted, but any opening of church buildings for tourism remains prohibited. For some time small funerals have been permitted, and there is no change to those regulations. (See our guidance page on weddings, funerals and baptisms).
Further work is being undertaken by the Government to assess both when church buildings might be able to be open for public worship or communal prayer, and the continuing regulation of those aspects of communal worship which might represent a risk of viral transmission, including singing and the playing of musical instruments. The Places of Worship Taskforce is working on those provisions. The Government states that it is being led by the science and will indicate when the scientific evidence suggests that it is safe for church buildings to open for worship.
Find a range of guidance, resources and stories in our Coronavirus web hub.